To Coach Joe Sanchez, the loss of two of the top three scorers from a team that advanced to the Patriot League tournament final hardly signals a crisis. It spells opportunity to try something new.

"I think this team is going to be quicker than any ballclub I've had before," Sanchez said. "It will allow us to play more of a full-court game and push the ball."

Without center Laurie Coffey, who has graduated, and guard Mandy Stephan, who is out for the season after knee surgery, the Midshipmen will need a lot of scoring from their three returning starters, center-forward Erica Hayes, guard Hilary Goodrich and forward Jennifer Bombinski.

Hayes is used to a heavy load. Last season, she led the team in scoring, field goal percentage (.542) and free throw percentage (.804) and was second in rebounds. But Sanchez said four freshmen need to contribute immediately: guards Lisa Steinmetz and Lauren Zapf and center-forwards Heather Wilson and Kristin Davidson.

"Our freshmen are going to get playing time, and they'll probably need to contribute sooner than they expect," Sanchez said. "I guess you could say we're in a touch of a youth movement."

The most important of the newcomers likely will be Steinmetz, since she probably will start at point guard. "It will be hard to keep her out of the starting lineup -- let's put it that way," Sanchez said. Last season, Steinmetz led her high school team to a 24-1 record and its district championship.

Sanchez also is hoping for a quick recovery by backup point guard Marissa Ball, who is still slowed after surgery on her calf, and more production from senior Angela Marino, a reserve forward for three seasons.

In a preseason poll, the Patriot League's coaches picked Navy to finish second behind five-time league champion Holy Cross. Sanchez believes his speed and defense will be better than last season.

"I'm still concerned about our rebounding," he said. "But by February, we might have a very good ballclub."

Data

Last season: 17-11, 7-5 Patriot League.

Coach: Joe Sanchez (sixth season, 97-44; 22nd season overall, 404-218).

Top returning players: C-F Erica Hayes, 6-1, Sr. (16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, first-team all-Patriot League, preseason Patriot League player of the year); G Hilary Goodrich, 6-0, So. (9.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, Patriot League all-rookie team); F Jennifer Bombinski, 5-10, Jr. (6.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

Key departures: C Laurie Coffey (13 ppg, 8.1 rpg); G Mandy Stephan (9.6 ppg, out for season with a knee injury); G Vanessa Melofchik (4.6 ppg, 2.5 apg).

New faces: G Lisa Steinmetz, 5-9, Fr. (Mount Vernon, Ohio); G Lauren Zapf, 5-7, Fr. (Cumberland, Md.); C-F Heather Wilson, 6-3, Fr. (Emerald Isle, N.C.); C-F Kristin Davidson, 6-3, Fr. (Lexington Park).

Schedule

November

21 Princeton, 1

24 at St. Peter's, 7:30

27 at SW Louisiana, 5:35

29 at McNeese State, 8

December

6 Buffalo, 5:15

8 UMBC, 7:30

21 American, 7:30

30 at Marist, 5:30

January

2 Appalachian State, 1

4 UNLV, 7

8 at Stony Brook, 2

12 at Bucknell, 5:15

16 at Lafayette, 1

19 at Morgan State, 7

23 at Holy Cross, 1

26 Army, 5:15

29 Lehigh, 12:30

31 Yale, 5:15

February

2 at Colgate, 5:30

5 Bucknell, 12:30

9 Lafayette, 5:15

12 Stony Brook, 12:30

14 Colgate, 5:15

19 Holy Cross, 12:30

23 at Lehigh, 5:30

26 at Army, 3

28 at Albany, 7

March

3-4 Patriot League tournament in Easton, Pa.